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  Lina from Lima Lonely This Christmas
Year: 2019
Director: Maria Paz Gonzalez
Stars: Magaly Solier, Emilia Ossandon, Herode Joseph, Betty Villalta, Exequiel Alcear, James Gonzalez, Cecilia Cartasegna, Egardo Castro, Javiera Contador, Sebastian Brahm, Alberto Tenorio, Domitila Castilla, Ingrid Cevallos, Miguel Perea
Genre: Musical, DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Lina (Magaly Solier) is from Peru, and she has come to Chile to work as a housekeeper, as many of her countrywomen do. She is currently housesitting a large, spacious mansion for a rich businessman whose daughter Clara (Emilia Ossandon) is still around, and must be looked after by Lina. But Christmas is approaching, and she has a family back in Lima who she would like to get back to for the festive season, specifically her son Junior (James Gonzalez) who she keeps in contact with over her phone. She imagines what it would be like to see him in the school nativity play, and herself joining in from the audience with the singing on the stage, the idea of travelling a long distance that the Biblical tale involves appealing to her. But there's an obstacle to her happiness...

What if Junior is more interested in his father, who Lina is estranged from? And what if he really doesn't give a shit whether his mother joins him for Christmas or not? What if, by journeying abroad to provide for herself and her son, Lina has in effect removed herself from her previous existence and is now adrift in life, with only her status as an immigrant worker to define her? These were heavy themes, but writer and director Maria Paz Gonzalez preferred to tackle them not with grand, sobbing melodrama as some might have anticipated from this part of the world, no, she delivered her narrative with a mix of the mundanity of her protagonist's lifestyle mixed with regular bursts of music, where Solier launched into big production numbers, or as big as the production would allow, at any rate.

Those bits were quite fun, and not all of them were cheery or upbeat as they had to reflect how lonely Lina was feeling from scene to scene. Not that she felt that way all the time, for there were points where she had someone to talk to, and even have sex with, something she enjoyed and was presented positively, without guilt, merely a way to pass the time, enjoy yourself, and make a connection with someone of the opposite sex for a while. These sequences were not explicit, not any nudity, for instance, and it was really the songs that had more attention paid to them as far as staging went, as they were more likely to depict how Lina was experiencing her life, from a piece that looks like it's from a cabaret to a Busby Berkeley swimming pool effort (with Solier playing every swimmer) to a lament for the immigrants where they mime to her voice.

It would be easy to dismiss this as rather slight, as a film where not much happens, and at under ninety minutes it did not hang around and outstay its welcome, but Gonzalez had a background in documentary and she had a serious a point to make in this, her first fiction work, as she had in the factual work. She said she had noted how the act of going to foreign climes in search of a job effectively make you a stateless individual, as unless you had family where you were heading there was a good chance you would lose contact with your origins, especially if you were taking a menial job, as Lina effectively is. You may wonder how true that is, alternatively you may think Gonzalez had a good idea of what she was talking about, and in films like Roma there were already depictions of the hard luck maids and servants endured in the service of the wealthy, but crucially, though Lina can get dejected, in the main she makes the best of what she has and tries to stay sunny about her lot, counting her blessings - a rough time when that involved estrangement from your offspring. Music by Cali Flores and Jose Manuel Gatica.

[Click here to watch on MUBI.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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